Cards on the table, I wasn’t up for this game from the minute it was announced while myself and Marc were mid-pod. You can literally hear my despair (unless he edited it out of course...).
As a fan in his mid (more late these days) 30s, I’ve been to Man United on several occasions in both league and cup competitions. Is it a “good” stadium? Yeah, it has its charm. Was I buzzing the first time I went? Of course. The second? Yeah. The third? So-so. The fourth? Not really. We’ve played them seven times in the “modern era” at Old Trafford. I’ve been to four of those (plastic I know). And for context, I went to the FA Cup game way back in January 1996 when they were the absolute pinnacle of football, so I’m well versed in Reading/Manchester United matches.
The upcoming game against Ten Hag’s outfit left me underwhelmed. My interest piqued slightly when I learned of when the game could be as, being truthful, I don’t go away as much anymore. The idea of making this one of my few away games this season was growing on me. I’d spent years in my youth (listen to me!) going up and down the country to proper random places and loved it. But I’ve learnt over the years that time is the most expensive commodity you can have and life gets in the way/takes over, hence the massive reduction in following Reading all around the country.
Once my son found out about this game, that was it. He was adamant we were going. I completely forgot that, as he’s seven, he’s never seen us play the “big dogs” and this game was like something out of FIFA. He’s only ever seen their players on TV, in his sticker books or on Match Attax cards etc, so I’d selfishly forgotten it would be a big deal to him. He’s seen a few of these teams in pre-season games, but it’s not the same is it?
Like most fans I immediately thought of the TV companies salivating over this fixture (there’s probably some bonkers stat out there that says how many of Man United’s FA Cup games have been televised in recent years...) and messing it all up for everyone this side of London. Lo and behold, when the game was “officially” announced on Friday afternoon, no one was surprised at either the ticket price or the KO time.
But here’s the rub: there are fans in our number that won’t miss any game for any reason, and like you reading this I’m sure, they have my complete and utter respect. It’s like a compulsion. Having done some very quick Googling, I can see that trains back to Reading from Manchester are tricky, to say the least. That means that, if I were prepared to re-mortgage my house to go by train, I’d have serious difficulties getting back from the game ON THE SAME DAY, having paid £46 to get a ticket in the first place.
We all know money talks, that’s modern football. United have to make money (lols), we get some of that of course which is useful, but to have had options to put the game on at 12.30pm or even 5.30pm on the same day, knowing that it’s both expensive and time-consuming for the visiting team’s fans to get up there, just smacks of disrespect to me.
So, if I were going, I’d need to get myself a ticket (£46), my son a ticket (£13), plus a tank of diesel (eight grand) and realistically a hotel room (call that £100). That’s a pretty expensive trip all in, without food and all the other stuff. Even away from the price of it all, having a seven-year-old up past their bedtime is a parenting nightmare, especially when he’s seeing his team get smashed 4-0 (probably).
All in all, it’s trash. It’s not ideal. It’s grossly inconsiderate once again of TV companies who have consistently shown contempt to fans of every club (not just ours) and leaves plenty of our fanbase not being able to attend the game.
Let’s hope for a replay so we can beat them at the Reading International Arena. And wish me luck in breaking the news to Thomas Junior that it’s going to be a late night. Not that he’ll care, mind.